“Our Schools Our Business: Putting the Pieces Together”
Robert B. Ingram, Ph.D.

Good afternoon to everyone

Thank you for inviting me to stop by and tarry with you today. To be invited as someone you’d like to hear from on an occasion such as this is one of the greatest honors a school board member could have bestowed upon them. I especially appreciate the invitation because it allows for me the opportunity to personally salute you for the great work that you are doing and to encourage you to continue concentrating on life’s possibilities rather than life’s pitfalls. After all you are our greatest resource.

With that in mind let me share this song from the times you could understand the words:

When you walk through a storm
Hold your head up high
And don’t be afraid of the dark
At the end of the storm
Is a golden sky
And the sweet silver song of a lark
Walk on through the wind
Walk on through the rain
Tho’ your dreams be tossed and blown
Walk on, walk on
With hope in your heart
And you’ll never walk alone
You’ll never walk alone

Your theme, “Our Schools Our Business: Putting the Pieces Together” could not be more appropriate, because ever since March of this year our school system has had to walk through a storm of controversy and we have taken some horrendous slams and we need to put the pieces back together. Not only that, ever since September 11, 2001, the bloodiest day in U.S. history, as our greatest resource, you have all been put on high alert, but in spite of the alert we need you to put the pieces back together. Today we have a different leader at the helm of our public school ship. But also true is the fact that “this, too, shall pass away.”

“Our Schools are Our Business: and we are about the business of Putting the Pieces Together.”

I am sure that there have been other times in your life when pressures have done its best to crush you.

When circumstances have done its best to ensnare you. When disappointments have done its best to discourage you, and When adversaries have done their best to frustrate you. But just like you did not let any of those things turn you around then, do not let any of these things turn you around now. We will not let Beastly-terrorist nor Bio-terrorist stop us from doing the best we can with the tools we have. I’ve stopped by to invite you to understand that we are living in a fast changing world. And how we look at change will determine our failure or our success. Someone wiser than I once said, and I agree, “It is our attitude and not our aptitude that will determine our altitude.”

We must understand that change is really a sign of life. Do you know, what one of the medical definition of death is? It is defined as a body that does not change.

During my TALK WITH YOU TODAY our bodies will undergo change - about ½ million cells in each of our bodies are going to die and be replaced with a half a million new cells. Those who study our biological changes note that:

Our skin replaces itself every month. Are you aware that 70-80% of the dust in our houses is made up of dead skin that has flaked off. Our stomach lining undergoes a complete change every 5 days;

Our liver undergoes a change every 6 weeks; Our skeleton changes every 3 months; Our whole body changes every 5 years for men & every 7 years for women. So you see, change is natural and not to change is to die. But what I want you to call to your attention is the fact that “Our Schools are Our Business: and Putting the Pieces Together” requires that we understand change. For example, are you aware of the fact that the digital watch you have on your wrist contains more computing power than existed in the entire world in 1961. Are you aware that the car you drive has more computation power to get down the street than all the computers combined in the Apollo 11 space craft that carried Neal Armstrong to the moon.

And listen to this; we are now living in a world where it is cheaper, faster and safer to a send a signal over 20,000 miles to a satellite and back again than it is to walk the 20 feet to tell you that your table is ready at a restaurant.

We live in a fast changing world. So fast that it has been estimated that more information has been generated in the last 30 years than in the previous 5,000 years. And that the average consumer will see or hear 1 million marketing messages in a year - that’s 3,000 marketing messages per day.

I personally can relate to these changes because I was born before television, in fact after television came on the market I can remember when there was only one in my whole neighborhood. That was before penicillin, before computers and before blue-eyed contact lens for black folks. I can remember when downtown Miami had five-cents and ten-cents stores and you could actually buy something for 5cents or 10 cents.

I was born when the United Nations had only about 60 member nations. There are now 185 nation states in the world, over a 100 of which did not exist when I came into the world.

I grew up when “coke” was something that I drank, “pot” was something that I cooked in, and a “crack salesman” meant someone was really good at what he did. When I was growing up Churches were where you went to worship, not to buy fried chicken. I grew up when times were hard, times I call my “PO” times, because we were so poor that we could not afford all four letters, we were “P.” “O.” - “po.” I am one of eleven children and I can remember one Christmas my father climbed on top of the roof blew up a brown paper bag and popped it so that it sounded like a shot-gun, and came back and told all the children that Santa Claus had committed suicide. Seriously, I think you get my point - we live in a changing world. However when I review the changes, I do not hang my head in despair. Instead, I feel challenged, motivated, and inspired to a new level of commitment in sharing my experiences with others.


According to Aristotle, three things convinced men: the ethos (ONE’S personal character) the pathos (persuasion from within) and the logos (the proof).

Now the logos, to the Greek mind, was the ultimate proof or the final word. For me, each of you possess the ETHOS, the character of excellence, and I am persuaded by your PATHOS, your commitment to education, and I believe that the final word is offered in your LOGOS, your ability to seek the final word, that is to seek opportunities like those that are being presented here and , opportunities now to rethink our goals, and a to take chance to start anew with our original philosophy intact - and that philosophy is to make certain that our student comes first.

Therefore your ETHOS, PATHOS, AND LOGOS are important to me on several levels. You see, if I am not mistaken, I am the only School Board member with grandchildren (4 to be exact) who attend our MIAMI DADE COUNTY PUBLIC SCHOOLS. I had five up until this past June when my oldest granddaughter graduate from Miami Carol City Senior High School. So I have a personal debt to pay and I am committed to doing everything within my power to assure that you get everything you deserve for the work that you do. You see I know of your work up close and personal, and to me you have demonstrated that you are leaders worthy of your wages and whatever other benefits we can offer. You have shown exceptional ability and unswerving dedication to our students and you deserve being lifted from the altar of neglect to the shrine of prosperity.

Not a member who sits on our school board presently can deny that but for someone like you - none us would be where we today. You have to feel good about yourselves knowing that you will have a hand in helping students who will turn out to be Scientist who will accomplish great things, and Surgeons who will perform great feats, and Philosophers who will influence great decisions, and Professional athletes and entertainers who will give great performances, and Educators who will carry on your great tradition of leadership. So you see why I am committed to your being given a fair shake and getting everything you so richly deserve. You can look for me in the whirlwind or in the storm for educator equity. People like you encourage people like me to champion your worthy cause. And together we must be committed to our student’s education. I say this because in America every 24 hours:

1,629 children are put in adult jail.
1,512 children drop out of school.
3,000 children see their parents divorced.
3,228 children run away from home, and
7,742 teens become sexually active to their detriment. Not only that, too many of our students have lost their moral compos as was indicated by a LOU HARRIS poll of more than 5,000 children between fourth and twelfth grade, in public, private and parochial schools. The Harris pole noted that Sixty-five percent of America’s high school students stated that they would cheat on an important exam, and Fifty-three percent of them said that they would lie to protect a friend who vandalizes school property. We have our work cut out for us. Each one of us must reach one to assure that our students:

- Regain their moral compos.
- That they Stay in school.
- That they are prepared for the job market, and
- That they leave our schools proficient in English and at least one other language

I believe you will agree, that we are not merely a school system, we are a school system dedicated to the proposition of giving our students the world. As educational leaders, we must recast our school system in educating our students, we must continue to equip our students with skills for survival and success, and we must continue to deliver them to society and the job market ready to work and function as responsible citizens.

And to do this we must remain focused, at the very least, on the eight key points from “A Nation of Opportunity: Building America’s 21st Century Workforce”:

Point number one: We must seek 21st Century Literacy for all of our students.
Point Two: We must help our students exercise Leadership Through Partnerships.
Point Three: We must form Learning Linkages for our students. Point Four: We must identify Pathways for our students into Information Technology Occupations.
Point Five: We must increase our students Acquisition of INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY Skills.
Point Six: We must expand our students ability toward Continuous Learning. Point Seven: We must Raise our Students Achievement - and Point Eight: We must make Technology Access and Internet Connectivity Universal for all of our students.

To achieve these ends we must be mindful of those things that can get in our way. To explain what I mean I draw on an historic FABLE, one I’m certain you have heard many times before but bears repeating. It is a story about an ANIMAL SCHOOL. Once upon a time the animals had a school that were under the mandate of an A-Plus plan. The school was told that there would be an F-CAT test that all would have to pass and that the curriculum would consist of running, climbing, flying and swimming, and all the animals would have to take all the subjects.

The duck was good in swimming, better than his instructor, and he made passing grades in flying, but was practically hopeless in running. He was made to stay after school and drop his swimming class in order to practice running. He kept this up until he was only average in swimming. But, average was O.K., so nobody worried about being average but the duck. The eagle was considered a problem pupil and was disciplined severely, because he beat all the others to the top of the tree in the climbing class, but he had used his own way of getting there.

The rabbit started out at the top of his class in running, but had a nervous breakdown and had to drop out of school on account of so much makeup work in swimming.

The squirrel led the climbing class, but his flying teacher made him start his flying lessons from the ground instead of the top of the tree, and he developed Charley Horses from overexertion at the takeoff and began getting D’s in climbing and F’s in running.

While all the other animals flunked out, the practical prairie dogs obtained VOUCHERS and apprenticed their off springs to a badger CHARTER SCHOOL when the public school authorities refused to add digging to the curriculum. At the end of the year, an eel that could swim well, run, climb, and fly a little was made valedictorian in a class of one that graduated. THE MORAL:

Too often, under our present mandates, we have been directed focus a child’s weaknesses rather than their strengths. We are being forced into passing the test rather than capitalizing on what works. In other words, if a child can’t read, hours are spent teaching him or her math will probably not work. If there are behavior issues, the same punitive measures that did not resolve the problems before will probably not resolve them now, therefore there will be no time to teach any competency.

I read of a Dr. Robert Brooks, who developed the term “islands of competence” in reference to areas of strength. I interpret his concept in the following way: Everyone has strengths, so we must find those areas of strength and build on them. Every student must feel they are making a contribution to their environment. My belief is that when you, as professionals, are left to your own devices you seem to truly get the job done.

So I’ve stopped by to invite you not to be led not by the:

- latest crisis or
- newest fad, but by
- your own clear vision of what is best for our community, for our schools and for our students.

Let’s grab the reigns of the digital revolution so we can drive it, before it drives us.

Let’s seize it with VIGOR, VIVACITY and VITALITY.

Let’s WALK THE WALK AND TALK THE TALK that will make all of our students feel that there is something GENUINE, GENTLE, GOOD and GENEROUS in learning.

Tell them to look at the BRIGHT, BUOYANT, and BREEZY side of everything and make their optimism come true.

Help them to think only the BEST, to work only for the BEST, and to expect only the BEST;

You must continue to be just as ENTHUSIASTIC, EFFERVESCENT, and ELECTRIFIED about the success of others as you are about your own success;

Forget the FAULTS, FOLLIES and FUMBLES of the past and press on toward the mark of the high calling of those things that are good for us all.

Remember these word:

When you walk through a storm
Hold your head up high
And don’t be afraid of the dark
At the end of the storm
Is a golden sky
And the sweet silver song of a lark
Walk on through the wind
Walk on through the rain
Tho’ your dreams be tossed and blown
Walk on, walk on
With hope in your heart
And you’ll never walk alone
You’ll never walk alone

So I’ve stopped by to salute you and to encourage you to keep up the good work, yes “Our Schools are Our Business: and yes we are about the business of Putting the Pieces Together”: So Mount up with wings as eagles;

Run and don’t get weary, walk and don’t faint.

I have been around long enough to say, I have been young and now I am old and I have never seen the righteous forsaken nor his seed beg for bread.

True, obstacles, may endure for THE NIGHT but if you stay focused on “Our Schools as Our Business: and be about the business of Putting the Pieces Together” there will be JOY in the morning! Thank you for inviting me to be a part this outstanding program.

To contact Dr. Ingram, please call 305-995-1340 or e-mail